28 October 2012

Manufacturer: BBC Worldwide Consumer Products

Written By: Bob Baker & Dave Martin

RRP: £20.42

Release Date: 22nd October 2012

Reviewed By: Sebastian J. Brook for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 28th October 2012

When a damaged spaceship containing beautiful humanoid creatures called Axons lands on Earth, The Doctor, Jo and UNIT are sent to investigate. In return for their help, the Axons offer the gift of Axonite, which would end world famine.

It all appears too good to be true - so what secrets are the Axons hiding on board their ship? And why is The Doctor's old enemy The Master involved?

* * * * *

This is a story that breaks new ground in a number of ways, but perhaps chiefly in some of the technological wizardry discovered and used at the time. The Claws of Axos is very much a product of its time, with the psychedelic nature of some of the FX and, ahem, costumes, but rather than leave the story behind in the 1970's, it carries through and is still as enjoyable today. 

When one hears the words 'Special Edition' attributed to a previously released Doctor Who DVD, you can't help wondering just how much more 'special' it can be.

The picture and audio quality is sharper and cleaner, perhaps not as noticeable as some of the recent restorations, but still worthy of note - especially considering the sheer amount of work that goes into them. But it is the extras, however, that make this edition particularly 'special'. As well as having the special features included on the previous release (CommentaryDeleted and Extended ScenesNow And Then & Easter Egg) we are treated to over an hour of bonus material, with one being among the finest ever produced for the range. More on that later.

Disc 1

Special Features:

Commentary - Featuring Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Richard Franklin (Captain Mike Yates) and Barry Letts (Producer). There's great atmosphere between the trio, with Barry's soft, almost Mr.Kipling-esque tones, Katy's boundless energy, and Richard's gentlemanly manner. The pace doesn't really drop, and Letts takes the mantle of directing the commentary successfully.

Deleted and Extended Scenes - The original but annotated version of the studio recording which is included on this release in it's entirety. Text commentary is an optional extra. This is particularly special owing to the fact it includes the only surviving behind-the-scenes footage of Roger Delgado.

Disc 2

Special Features:

Axon Stations! - The feature kicks off with a great CGI sequence that literally pulls you into the process of how The Claws of Axos was made. Featuring interviews with Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Bob Baker (Co-Writer), Terrance Dicks (Script Editor), Michael Ferguson (Director), Derek Ware (Pigbin Josh), Paul Grist (Agent Bill Filer) & Bernard Holley (Axon Man). An insightful and amusing documentary - look out for Katy Manning's priceless description of the Axon ship! Kudos to the Director of the piece, Chris Chapman, who can add another string to his bow of inventive, engaging and ultimately successful additions to the Doctor Who DVD range.

Now and Then - Richard Bignell provides us with another of his location comparisons, contrasting the original footage from 1971 with that of modern day. In most cases, it's surprising at how little has changed in the 41 years since the story was filmed. Warmfully narrated by Katy Manning, we're taken through the chronological order of shooting locations.

Directing Who: Michael Ferguson on The Claws of Axos - A more focused insight into Michael Ferguson's role as Director for the story. Michael recalls some of the technical advantages and disadvantages with The Claws of Axos, as well as opinions of his fellow colleagues. There is some repetition of recollections, previously featured in the 'Axon Stations!' extra, but as a whole it's great to see and hear a more linear collection of Michael's memories on the show.

Studio Recording - A surviving example of how BBC studio drama's used to be made, featuring the complete unedited recording, with studio chatter, VT run-ups and recording breaks. This is definitely a feature for the hardcore fans, or those with an interest in media production. We just so happen to be both, so naturally loved it!

Living With Levene - As the opening line explains, Toby Hadoke spends the weekend with one of the most unusual figures in Doctor Who; John Levene (Sergeant Benton in the Classic Series). We're introduced to John's early work on the show as a Cyberman extra in 'The Moonbase' and then as a Yeti in 'The Web of Fear'. We're then incorrectly informed his next appearance was as Sergeant Benton in 'The Invasion' - [that should have been Corporal Benton] - but minor factual niggle aside, it covers Levene's life quite thoroughly and entertainingly. Hadoke, as always, helps guide the feature smoothly coupled with his knowledge of Doctor Who and obvious love for the show.

But this feature, which is a little out of the ordinary for a Doctor Who DVD extra, sets itself as the jewel in the Claws of Axos: Special Edition release. Whether deliberately or by accident, Living with Levene doesn't just tell the story of one man's brush with Doctor Who, but how that brush affected his entire life, and in doing so, creates a warm, touching and very real documentary, blanketed by the beautiful surrounding of Levene's hometown of Salisbury.

There's no denying that some of John's stories and recollections seem fantastical, but the irony here is that through Hadoke's numerous attempts to unmask the 'real' John Levene, one can't help feel that, akin to the movie 'Big Fish', what we have here is a larger than life man, who has truly lived a life larger than himself. One can't help being captivated by his infectious personality and obvious love for the life he has lived and lives.

This extra is well worth the price of the DVD itself, and could easily be enjoyed by a non-Doctor Who loving audience. It's wonderfully constructed and is arguably the finest extra ever produced for the Doctor Who DVD range. The production is of the quality of some of the BBC's renowned 'Wonderland' series, and sets a new bar for the (few remaining) future releases.

Coming Soon Trailer - 'The Legacy Box' is the subject of the trailer, and features both 'Shada' and the 'More than 30 years in the TARDIS' documentary.

Easter Egg - There's a rather informative Easter Egg on this release that has a rather amusing connection to The Claws of Axos.

As with previous releases there is the usual Photo Gallery, PDF Marerials, Subtitles and Info Text for those who want or need them.

The Claws of Axos: Special Edition ticks all the boxes for any fan of this story. The restoration, quality of extras and overall value for money definitely warrant the purchase - even if you bought the non-Special Edition first time round. With a few more Special Editions on the horizon as the end of the Doctor Who DVD range is in sight, this release sets a new standard that will have us double-dipping with no questions asked.

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